A drunken woman grabbed a large kitchen knife and stabbed her new husband “straight through the heart” at their Pico-Union apartment, a prosecutor told jurors Monday, but a defense attorney countered that the blood evidence suggests the man committed suicide.
Misun Yoo, 28, is charged with murder in the stabbing death of 31-year-old Tae Kyung Sung, on July 30, 2017.
The couple had been married four months but were already struggling in their relationship, according to attorneys for both sides.
During opening statements, Deputy District Attorney Irene Lee had shown the six-man, six-woman jury photos of two informal contracts the couple prepared, agreeing to take steps to better their marriage, including no physical fighting and drinking only in moderation.
“There had been domestic violence in the home … it went both ways,” Lee said during her opening statement earlier this month.
Sung, a “happy, well-liked young man” better known as Andy, had a “whirlwind romance” with Yoo when she came to the United States for a visit and was so dismayed when she had to return home that he surprised friends and family by quickly marrying her when she returned in March 2017, Lee told the Los Angeles Superior Court jury earlier this month.
During closing arguments Monday, Deputy District Attorney Colby Cano told jurors Sung would have no reason to kill himself and was working hard to build his business, a karaoke nightclub in Koreatown called the Barcode.
The couple stayed at the club until about 4 a.m. the night Sung died. Friends drove them home to their apartment in the 1100 block of Menlo Avenue, across the street from the Los Angeles Police Department’s Olympic Division station, and then Sung logged onto his computer.
He was exchanging text messages with a friend for about 15 minutes before Yoo called 911, struggling to make herself understood as she asked for help, because she barely spoke English. When officers arrived minutes later, they found Andy slumped over his computer chair, his sleeveless T-shirt drenched in blood and a knife sticking out of his heart.
Yoo initially told officers that a Hispanic man broke in, punched her and stabbed her husband, but she later told investigators she had no memory of what had happened, Cano said.
Cano said it was clear.
“The facts prove this is a murder,” Cano told jurors Monday. “The evidence in the case is … completely inconsistent with their claim of suicide.”
Sung was happy and there were “no warning signs of any kind … no suicide note … no history of mental health issues,” Cano said. “This is not someone who’s closing himself off to the outside world.”
The prosecutor focused on evidence of blood found in the bathroom and kitchen sinks and a shower drain as proof that Yoo tried to clean up before police arrived.
And when they did, at first “she doesn’t even come to the door … they’re knocking on the front door to help and she’s running the other way,” Cano said.
“Her husband supposedly killed himself … she had every opportunity” to tell police but “she never, ever, not even once said it” despite hours of questioning, the prosecutor said.
However, she did ultimately confess to the killing, telling investigators “Just say I did it, I don’t remember.”
Defense attorney David Paek said his client was “stumbling drunk” when she left the club and frantic when she called police.
“Why would Andy stab himself?” Paek said jurors might ask one another during deliberations. “That night, something happened and he beat his wife … the right cheek, the left jaw, the mouth. He beat her to the point of no return.”
Paek showed a photo of Yoo taken by police with her right cheekbone swollen and bruised.
“He was a wife-beater and that’s probably a dark secret that he didn’t want anyone to find out,” Paek told jurors.
“She wanted to go with her friends (that night at 4 a.m.) and Andy didn’t want that,” the defense attorney said, calling that decision “the moment of tragedy.”
Though Andy is “playful, hugging (and) caressing” his wife in video surveillance captured about an hour before the killing, Paek said “he has an image to keep up. He’s the nice guy.”
But when they got home, the defense attorney suggested, Sung knocked his wife out cold in an “irrational rage.”
That same rage led him to stab himself when he realized “he’d crossed a line that he could not return from,” the defense attorney said. Sung knew when his wife gained consciousness “she was going to pack her bags and she was going to leave him, and the thought of her leaving him … drove him to do this.”
Paek reminded jurors of expert testimony on bloodstain pattern analysis by Tina Young, a professor at Grossmont College, who concluded that Sung committed suicide.
Blood spatter on the back of Yoo’s T-shirt was evidence that she was lying on the floor of the room when Sung plunged the knife into his own chest, the defense expert testified.
Paek ridiculed the idea that the much stronger Sung would “sit there and take it” while attacked by his wife.
“There was no struggle. There was no fighting … all the evidence is that this was a one-way fight,” he said.
And only Sung’s DNA was found on the knife, he reminded the jury.
As for the confession, his client hadn’t slept all night and was “stuck in this cold, small little room” six hours after the stabbing and interrogated by an officer for two hours before deciding to take the blame.
“The truth is, she can’t remember,” Paek said.
The prosecutor said the defense theory hinged on Young’s interpretation of the blood evidence, telling the jury panel about the defense expert, “She got the science wrong.”
Cano reiterated contradicting testimony by Thomas Bevel, a bloodstain pattern expert who has testified in hundreds of cases, compared to Young’s six, according to the prosecutor.
Timing of the blood spatter is at issue. Young, the defense expert, said that if Yoo plunged the knife into her husband’s chest, she would be covered in his blood because the impact would have spattered drops on her. Young pointed to the absence of blood on portions of Sung’s hands as evidence that he was holding the knife himself.
Bevel said the spray of blood wouldn’t have come on impact, but when the heart first beat after the knife was plunged in, so the killer could have avoided spatter. Bevel also testified that because the timing of that heartbeat wasn’t known, it could not be determined exactly what position Sung was in when he was stabbed.
Cano suggested Sung might have instinctively reached toward the wound after he was stabbed, creating the same pattern of bloodstains.
“Andy Sung did not kill himself. His wife, the only other person who was there … killed him, stabbed him straight through the heart. The end,” Cano said.